All About Hydrocolloid Plasters

All About Hydrocolloid Plasters
17 August 2022

All About Hydrocolloid Plasters

Hydrocolloid plasters and dressings are becoming an increasingly popular choice for wound care ranging from burns, blisters, and even acne. Learn the difference between hydrocolloid plasters and other common plasters and dressings, including the science behind hydrocolloid healing benefits and how to apply and remove these unique plasters safely.

Can you put a plaster on a burn?

If you’re looking for a quick answer to: should I put a plaster on a burn? In short, yes, but only if it’s a hydrocolloid plaster or hydrocolloid blister plaster.

Burn on hand

The treatment of burns and scalds is time critical. Using the right products to keep burn wounds clean and protected and support safe healing is essential.

So should you put a plaster on a burn? With so many plaster products available, choosing the right one is essential. The washproof plasters you can find in most first aid kits might be suitable to cover a small burn area to protect it from further damage but will not assist natural healing like a hydrocolloid plaster, or offer the soothing benefits that a burn dressing will. This article will unpack how hydrocolloid plasters work and why they’re the ideal treatment for burns and scalds. 

What are hydrocolloid plasters?

Hydrocolloid plasters are opaque or transparent dressings for wounds that are biodegradable and breathable. They are designed to support wound healing without breaking down the tissue beneath them or causing a softening of the skin. They absorb the fluids and protect wounds from external bacteria, preventing infection.

The term “hydrocolloid” refers to the specially formulated ingredients that turn to a gel when they mix with liquids. So, when a hydrocolloid plaster is secured over a wound, such as a burn or a blister, a gel forms as the wound begins to heal, maintaining a moist, clean environment that will help the skin beneath to regenerate.

Hydrocolloid plasters are also called burn plasters, or blister plasters. The plasters feature a thin, discreet film which secures smoothly to skin. They have a breathable waterproof backing that stretches and flexes with movement to protect wounds from water and germs. They are secured in place with a low-allergy adhesive which minimises the risk of an allergic reaction when applied.

Most hydrocolloid plasters will offer the following features:

  • The padded wafer of the dressing contains gel-forming agents
  • A waterproof backing, often made of polyurethane
  • A variety of shapes and thicknesses available
  • Are made especially for difficult-to-dress wound areas such as elbows and heels

Hydrocolloid Plasters: How do they work?

So, how do hydrocolloid plasters work?

Hydrocolloid plasters and dressings provide a moist, insulating healing environment that protects uninfected wounds while allowing the body's enzymes to help heal wounds. This not only keeps the wound area clean, but the damp surroundings prevent the formation of hard scabs, which reduces pain symptoms, inflammation, and scarring.  

Hydrocolloid plasters can be described as “interactive dressings” because they provide a specific wound-healing environment and interact with the wound surface to support natural healing processes. They have two layers. The inner layer comprises gelatine, pectin, and carboxymethyl cellulose which absorbs substances such as fluid or pus that seep out of healing wounds. The outer layer is a polyurethane film that forms a seal to prevent bacteria and debris from getting into the wound. This layer secures in place with an adhesive around the edges. 

 

The inner hydrocolloid layer of the plaster sits over the blister or burn wound. It contains particles that draw exudate (fluid) out of the wound. As the fluid is drawn out, it forms a hydrating gel over the top of the broken skin and acts as a scab which protects the area and keeps it moist while the inner tissues regenerate and heal. 

To treat blisters, burns, and healing wounds where liquid forms between the outer and inner layers of skin tissue, choose hydrocolloid plasters. How do they work?

  • They reduce the risk of infection by providing a barrier against bacteria from the environment.
  • They facilitate the body’s breakdown of damaged tissue.
  • They maintain an acidic pH level in the wound, which reduces bacterial growth.
  • They encourage the formation of collagen and connective tissue.
  • They maintain a consistent temperature around the wound.

A hydrocolloid plaster has several functions that help to heal a wound:

They reduce inflammation icon

Benefit 1

They reduce inflammation.

They draw excess fluids out of the wound icon

Benefit 2

They draw excess fluids out of the wound.

They create a protective, waterproof barrier against the outside world icon

Benefit 3

They create a protective, waterproof barrier against the outside world.

They do not adhere to the wound, meaning no skin damage occurs when they are removed icon

Benefit 4

They do not adhere to the wound, meaning no skin damage occurs when they are removed.

They provide a moist environment conducive to new cell growth, allowing the body to heal using its enzymes icon

Benefit 5

They provide a moist environment conducive to new cell growth, allowing the body to heal using its enzymes.

Hydrocolloid Plasters: Benefits

Choose Steroplast Hydrocolloid Plasters for guaranteed quality and a wide range of benefits including

  • They don’t stick to the wound.
  • They are hypoallergenic to be kind to sensitive skin.
  • Each plaster is individually wrapped for added hygiene and protection. 
  • They provide a moist environment which allows body enzymes to help heal.
  • They are impermeable to bacteria and other contamination.
  • Each plaster is water-resistant, helping protect the delicate environment while the skin heals.
  • Their outer layer is flexible, moulding around skin and stretching with natural body motions for comfort and protection.
  • The transparent material of each plaster blends in against the skin, making them highly discreet.

Hydrocolloid Plaster Uses

Hydrocolloid plasters and dressings were specially developed to aid wound healing where liquid forms between two layers of injured skin. These types of injuries are prone to infection and further damage as the outer layer of blistered skin is at risk of rupturing or tearing, worsening the injury and increasing the healing time. 

The most common injuries that benefit from hydrocolloid plasters and dressings are:

  • Burns and scalds (blistered skin in particular).
  • Friction blisters (usually caused by repeated rubbing or uncomfortable, ill-fitting shoes)
  • Spots and acne (where a blemish filled with pus has formed)

Burns and Scalds

Can you use blister plasters on burns? Hydrocolloid plasters (sometimes called blister plasters) are ideal for treating burns because they draw out liquid from between the layers of skin, aiding the natural healing process and protecting the wound from infection or disruption. 

Hydrogel dressings and plasters are also a common and effective way to treat burns. Leading burncare expert, Burnshield supplies hydrogel burn dressings and trauma gels that are effective in rapidly cooling and soothing burn wounds. Check out the most frequently asked questions about Burnshield hydrogel product benefits and features for more information. Burnshield hydrogel products are included in the contents of our premium burns first aid kit, we discuss how to use a burn kit and essential burncare kit contents on our blog.

Steroplast Cushioned Blister Plasters also use a hydrogel dressing layer to effectively treat burns and blisters. Made with a large 6.8cm x 4.3cm oval-shaped pad they are ideal for covering small burn wounds.

Friction Blisters

Hydrocolloid plasters are a popular product for the treatment of blisters, often those caused by rubbing shoes. They adhere well and can be kept on for up to a week so they are ideal for treating irritating blisters with minimal intervention. Their hydrocolloid technology keeps them clean and moist, aiding healing.

Spots and Acne

You might have heard about the benefits of using hydrocolloid blister plasters to treat facial blemishes, spots and acne. They are generally a lot more cost-effective than expensive acne patches. We investigate the craze for using hydrocolloid plasters for acne on our blog.

Other uses

There is also some evidence that hydrocolloid dressings are a good choice for treating skin graft donor sites. Large, non-adhesive hydrocolloid dressings are becoming increasingly popular in medical settings to treat large wound areas prone to infection.

Are blister plasters hydrocolloid?

Now that we know the hydrocolloid plasters and dressings can heal burns, scalds, burn blisters and friction blisters, you might be wondering, are blister plasters hydrocolloid? This depends on the brand and style of blister plaster you choose. 

Steroplast’s specially formulated Cushioned Blister Plasters are hydrocolloid. They work the same way as our other hydrocolloid plasters by creating a sealed moist environment for a blister to heal, but offer a greater surface area for larger wounds.. Their high water content and absorbency contribute to natural healing in a similar way and are highly effective at preventing friction blisters from forming, too.

Learn all about blister plasters on our blog.

Can you put blister plasters on burns?

Do blister plasters work on burns? Yes, they will be most effective if they contain hydrocolloid agents, but hydrogel options may also offer soothing effects due to their high water content. If in doubt, seek professional medical advice from your doctor.

How to apply Hydrocolloid Plasters

Applying a hydrocolloid plaster is similar to the best practices for most wound care for small cuts or grazes. 

Follow these steps:

  1. Wash your hands and put gloves on, if available.
  2. Clean wound with cleansing wipes or saline solution.
  3. Pat wound dry with clean gauze.
  4. Choose a hydrocolloid plaster that will fully cover the area of the wound.
  5. Hold the hydrocolloid plaster between your clean hands to warm it so that it adheres better. 
  6. Remove the backing from the hydrocolloid plaster.
  7. Apply the plaster directly over the centre of the wound site.
  8. Smooth the plaster over the wound evenly and adhere to the sides. Hold to improve the adhesion. 
  9. Apply tape if the plaster doesn’t fully seal at the edge to secure the dressing.
  10. Throw away waste, remove gloves and discard them.
hydrocolloid plaster applied on a burn area

A 2014 study found that:

Hydrocolloid dressings are designed to be worn for up to a week. Infrequent dressing changes are less disruptive to the wound bed, provided that healthy skin is not compromised. Many patients--and even some medical professionals--still incorrectly believe that wounds need to be exposed to the air to heal properly. 

For this reason, leave your hydrocolloid plaster on until it begins to come loose naturally. Always monitor the plaster and wound to ensure there is no sign of swelling or redness which could indicate infection. 

How to remove a Hydrocolloid Plaster

When you need to remove a hydrocolloid plaster, follow these steps:

  1. Press down on the skin near the edge of the plaster and lift up the adhesive on one side. 
  2. Continue to lift around the edges of the plaster until all the adhesive is free.
  3. Carefully peel the plaster back from the wound in the direction of hair growth. Peel slowly and cautiously to reduce the risk of breaking open the healing skin again.
  4. If the wound is still open or damaged from the removal, apply a new plaster using the steps above.

When the plaster is replaced, all the exudate is removed from the top of the wound, and the new, clean plaster continues to protect the area with a fresh layer of hydrocolloid.

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